Matamata-Piako will be encouraged to establish a Māori ward for the 2022 local body elections.
Its Manawhenua forum, which met on Tuesday last week, unanimously recommended the establishment of a ward – and that the forum continue.
The Forum, a standing committee of council, includes representatives from Council, Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Rahiri-Tumutumu, Raukawa, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Paoa and Ngāti Hinerangi, meets quarterly.
If a Maori Ward is introduced for the 2022 elections, Council will need to make this decision by May 21 and it would trigger a representation review involving public consultation and hearings.
Under present legislation, the council can only have one Māori ward because it has 11 councillors.
Meanwhile, the South Waikato District Council, which supported the legislative change, says it has no plans to add a Māori ward.
“The South Waikato District is a strong multicultural community. We always have been. Our representation on Council has always encompassed a wide range of cultures particularly Māori and Pacific Island people,” mayor Jenny Shattock said.
“This has provided our Council with a sound basis for community representation since its inception in 1989. We have been very fortunate with the nature of our inclusive representation over the years, compared to some other councils.”
She said the focus on building one-on-one relationships with different communities over the past four to five years had enhanced her council’s ability to effectively represent different sectors of the community.
“Building and strengthening relationships continues to be a key focus for council.”